Boris Johnson claimed that “we are ready” for the return of pupils to school on Monday as he argued that the risk to children was higher staying at home.
The prime minister said he was “very hopeful” that the first step in his roadmap - which also includes the loosening of some restrictions - would go to plan.
“I think people want to go back, they feel it, they feel the need for it,” he added.
Mr Johnson also defended his controversial pay offer to “heroic” NHS staff, suggesting his government had given “as much as we can”. Nursing leaders and unions expressed anger last week when it emerged ministers had recommended a 1 per cent pay rise.
It came as the number of daily Covid deaths fell to the lowest level since 19 October, at the start of the second wave.
Meanwhile a leading government adviser has predicted Britons will all have a summer holiday this year – but warned the NHS will have to prepare for a possible “hard winter” ahead.
Public Health England’s response director for Covid-19, Dr Susan Hopkins, told The Andrew Marr Show she thought “we will hopefully all have summer holidays” but we must also have “options available for the country in case things are not as satisfactory as we’d all like them to be”.